On Monday nights Integral Yoga hosts a one-hour $10 beginners’ class—a gentle, music-less class designed with the beginner yogi in mind, but decidedly beneficial for any level of practice. Even though Sleuth has been doing yoga for many years, it was a refreshing surprise to begin class with a meditation I’d never done before.
Ken Katz started us with an eye movement meditation. In a seated position, we moved our eyes from 12 o’clock to 1 o’clock to 2 o’clock, etc. then back around the other way. We hold so much tension in our eyes, so this was a welcome exerc-”eyes.” After this brief meditation, we chanted three “om”s and then Ken walked us through a gentle seated twist and side bend to warm up our spine.
Moving onto sun salutations, Ken kept them relaxed—instead of high lunge we were instructed to bring the back knee to the floor, and even cobras were to get no higher than a baby cobra. At one point, Ken invited us to take our hands off the floor to make sure we were using our back muscles.
After three rounds of gentle sun salutations, Ken instructed us to take a relaxing savasana for five minutes. “There is no pain in yoga. There is no strain in yoga. There is no competition in yoga," he said
We let this sink in before proceeding to the next sequence, taking our time to get there. We were to work on backbends, first taking a baby cobra then shalabhasana but only raising one leg at a time and holding for about 15 seconds on each side for two rounds. As we raised each leg, Ken would chant, “Ooooooooo” in a long monotone to help us keep time. We also held bridge pose for several minutes and then legs-up-the-wall but with no wall. Instead, we put a block underneath the sacrum, and held our legs up. Our forward bend pose was a soothing janu sirsasana followed by matsyandrasana, a seated spinal twist.
Ken then invited us to lie down in corpse pose for yoga nidra, where time seemed to nearly stand still. He quietly walked us through each body part, having us tense up and then release each one, before a final and refreshing relaxation.
After gently waking us from savasana, we practiced kapalabhati, skull-shining breath, followed by alternate nostril breathing. “If you know it, go ahead,” said Ken. “Otherwise, I’ll walk you through it,” he reassured us—a method of guidance he employed throughout class, making it accessible to all.
To end class, we chanted one “om” followed by call and response, “lokah samasta sukhino bhavantu.” It was a sweet ending to a leisurely and mild class setting the pace for the rest of the week.
—Marie Carter for Yoga Sleuth
One-hour drop-in classes are $10 (90-minute classes are $17) with free mat rental. New students can try 3 classes for $30.